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Pakistan, World XI clash today in first combat of three-match T20 series

LAHORE Sept 12 (TNS):  LAHORE: After eight years of isolation, Pakistan cricket team is to face star-studded World XI team featuring international players before home crowd at Gaddafi Stadium here Tuesday night (tonight).

A three-match Twenty20 (T20) series, titled Independence Cup, embarks on reviving international cricket in Pakistan.

The historic three-match T20 series will be overseen by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) along with others as PCB expects this would pave the way for the country to host tours of Sri Lanka and West Indies later this year.

Calls for reviving the international cricket gained momentum in March this year following the successful T20 Pakistan Super League (PSL) final at Gaddafi stadium in Lahore, featuring various high-profile foreign players including skipper of victorious Peshawar Zalmi and West Indian all-rounder Darren Sammy.

West Indies Samuel Badree was the only player in the 14-man squad who reached Lahore on Tuesday morning due to his commitment with the CPL.

Pakistan has not hosted top-level international cricket — barring five limited over matches against Zimbabwe in 2015 — since the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by terrorists in March 2009, killing eight people and injuring seven players and staff.

Since the 2009 attack Pakistan have been forced to play most of their “home” games in the United Arab Emirates — with the PCB complaining they have incurred losses of around $120 million.

On the field, Pakistan will start favourites in their first outing since their remarkable victory at the 50-over Champions Trophy in England in June.

The World XI led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis and feature his countrymen Hashim Amla and David Miller, plus Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal and Australia’s George Bailey in strong batting line-up. The World XI is coached by former Zimbabwe batsman and ex-England coach Andy Flower. They have also tempted out of retirement at the age of 41 the captain of England’s 2010 World T20-winning side, Paul Collingwood.

A potent bowling attack comprises South Africa’s Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir, with Australian Ben Cutting and West Indies’ Samuel Badree and Darren Sammy.

The ICC have accorded international status on the matches, which will be played on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and are sending former West Indian great Richie Richardson as referee.

“The ICC wants to see regular international cricket being played safely in all its member countries and the World XI playing in Lahore is a step towards that for the PCB,” said ICC chief executive David Richardson.

“We are optimistic that this will be the next step in a steady and safe return of international cricket to Pakistan.”

Whatever the result, if it passes without incident it will pave the way for a further, hugely symbolic step: the return of Sri Lanka next month.

The international players arrived at Allama Iqbal International Airport amid tight security early on Monday morning.

Talking to media persons on Monday, PCB chairman Najam Sethi said that it’s a great opportunity for Pakistan to revive international cricket in the country.

“Arrival of international cricket players in the country to play against Pakistan a three-match Twenty20 (T20) series is outcome of extraordinary efforts that were made to revive international cricket,” Sethi had then said.

Subsequently on Monday, World XI Coach Andy Flower said that he was glad to be coach of the star-studded team while addressing press and anticipating great cricket action during the historic series.

“This brave nation suffered for a very long time being deprived of international cricket,” Flower said.

Security has been beefed up in the provincial capital and some 8,000 personnel of police and paramilitary forces will guard teams as they travel back and forth from Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.

The series will be the most high-profile in the cricket-mad country since a 2009 militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore left eight dead and drove away international cricket and most other sports.

Both the hotel and stadium will be cordoned off with 9,000 police and paramilitary staff deployed during the next five days.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have high hopes that the series will close that dark chapter for good — and allow a new generation of players to experience the thrill of playing before a home crowd for the first time.

Squads for World XI tour of Pakistan 2017

Pakistan:

Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Umar Amin, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf , Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin, Mohammad Amir, Rumman Raees, Usman Khan, Sohail Khan

World XI:

David Miller, Morne Morkel, Tim Paine, Thisara Perera, Imran Tahir, Darren Sammy, Hashim Amla, Grant Elliott, Samuel Badree, George Bailey, Tamim Iqbal, Paul Collingwood, Ben Cutting, Faf du Plessis(c)

Fixtures

1st T20I, September 12, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore at 7:00PM

2nd T20I, September 13, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore at 7:00PM

3rd T20I, September 15, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore at 7:00PM